Monday, September 8, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Today (well really last Friday) was my turn for the Around the World Blog Hop.  I have no idea where this started, but I got tapped by Teresa from Third Floor Quilts.  Her artwork is outstanding, she has a very creative eye and excellent technical skills.  Definitely check it out. She's working on a series of black and white animal quilts right now; so far her cow is finished and is super fun.  She's also just finished writing a book about Japanese quilting and quilters, and I'm excited for it to come out!

1. What am I working on? 

Right now I'm finishing up (today!  tomorrow!) a quilt for a show deadline.  Its quite dark for me and features free motion cutwork and shadows reminiscent in technique but not style to two of my previous quilts:

I'm also starting a new quilt inspired by Ring Around the Mole, and have another quilt in progress similar in feel but much larger than my quilt in nomine Patris.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

This is the kind of question that I dread because I don't know the answer.  It's something I think about a lot since I think it's tied to the idea of having a defined artists voice or perspective.  Many of the artists I admire have such a clear voice. You can immediately tell one of their quilts just by looking at it, not because their work is all the same, but because there's just something about it that makes it clearly identifiable as theirs.

Anyhow, I don't think I have a clear voice yet or anything per se that sets my work apart.  However, I find I am drawn back to certain things over and over.  I tend to like graphic shapes and bold colors.  I use a lot of metallic threads, paints, and fabrics. I'm also drawn most often to non-cotton fabrics.  These two things combined might lead you to think I like sparkly, shiny finishes and fun textures and that's right!

3. Why do I write/create what I do? 

Because I have to.  If I'm not creating the noise in my head is unbearable.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

I do very limited sketching by hand (something I've been working on improving) but most of my designing is usually done in adobe illustrator and adobe photoshop.  I definitely prefer to have things fairly well planned out ahead of time.   I'll typically work from a full scale print out of my design.  

My ideas sometimes come from nature, but more often they are related to some sort of science-y something.  I'm a cell biologist by day, and while I don't usually make things directly related to my research, I do usually have some sort of scientific or biological idea at the core of my pieces.

In terms of construction, my pieces are usually machine applique or appli-pieced (a la Caryl Fallert).  I do some paper piecing (epp and foundation) but I'm not usually much of a traditional piecer.  If I'm using cotton fabrics, I'll typically appli-piece, whereas if I'm using synthetic fabrics I'll usually machine applique and seal the raw edges with a wood-burning tool (to avoid fraying edges).  I also frequently make and use silk screens in my work.  They can help me achieve crisp shapes and letters with lots of detail.

I quilt on my Janome 7700, mostly free motion. I really enjoy the quilting process, and spend vast quantities of time in boring meetings doodling quilting.   I sometimes embellish with yarn, decorative threads, beads etc.

So thanks to Teresa for the invite!  Definitely check out her blog.  I love that she works so successfully in multiple different styles!  She lives in Houston so I'm hoping we can meet up in person at IQF this year.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Koala Teddy for Alex

It's super hard to believe, but Alex has turned 1!  I decided to crochet him a teddy bear, and I used the Koala-in-footie-pajamas pattern from Ana Paula Rimoli's Amigurumi Two!: Crocheted Toys for Me and You and Baby Too.  It's a fun easy crochet book I've had for a while.

I used just miscellaneous yarn I had on hand-  interestingly, all of the pajamas (except the beige/white stripe on his torso) is from a single skein.  I had no idea when I grabbed it out of the box, but apparently it wasn't just red mottled, but also purple mottled, blue mottled, and pink mottled.  The colors change really slowly too so it looks like he has one bluish leg, but I promise it's the same skein of yarn!  In spite of the weird color changes, the yarn is super soft so the bear is very cuddly.  Since Alex is so little, I stitched all the facial features/details (the star and the nose are felt) rather than using buttons or doll eyes.  I love crocheting stuffed animals and I hope he enjoys this one!

Happy Birthday precious precious Alex!

Friday, August 29, 2014

New Mandala Quilt

You guys may remember my quilt Ring Around the Mole, completed earlier this year.  It's been hanging at the Hubbard Museum of the American West in a SAQA exhibit, and I was recently contacted by some people who wanted to commission a similar quilt, but with different animals.

Ring Around the Mole

I met with them and worked up a design they liked so I'm moving forwards.  It's the first time I've made a second quilt in the same vein as a prior one and I'm trying to track how the two compare. The design process took about as much time as before, only two of the animals (the armadillos and the deer) were the same as in my project, but I didn't have so much difficulty with Illustrator as I did last time.  Designing Ring Around the Mole was really my first foray into vector graphics and designing a quilt that way, so it helped this time around to be much more familiar with the software.

Here are three different colored versions of the new design.  The clients wanted their ranch logo in the middle and then cardinals, squirrels, rabbits, chocolate labs, armadillos, horses, longhorns, deer, catfish, great blue herons, crested caracaras, red-tailed hawks, and great horned owls.  If I've done my job correctly, you should see all of those below!  One thing that stood out to me this time was the bird feet.  My first quilt had all mammals, so there weren't any bird feet, but it was quite challenging to draw all the different bird feet for this one.

They liked the middle version of the coloring so I'll be using that as my starting spot for finding fabrics.  A lot of the precise colors will depend on what I find, and of course the colors will be much more vibrant and textured in fabric than in the drawings.  As before, I'm going to have to be careful to prevent it from getting too busy, but I think I'll be able to find a balance.  I'm excited to be starting something new, and it was fun to mock up a design for someone who I knew really liked my quilts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rearranged Bedroom

Ever since I moved into my new studio, my back bedroom has actually be set up for guests.  For a long time I had both twin beds pushed together to be a single king size, but for a variety of reasons I decided to separate the beds back out again. 

One primary reason (and the reason I'm sharing here) is because it means two of my earliest quilts get to be out enjoying some use!  The first is One Hen, Two Ducks, from 2009.  It had previously been out in that room but was way too small for a king bed so always looked quite funny draped over it.  The second is Eye on the Ocean from 2008.  It was actually the first quilt I ever entered into a show and was made from a bunch of fabrics I bought on wonderful trip to Hawaii.  It's been in a bag under my bed for the last several years so I'm thrilled it gets to come out and have some fun.  

Of course when paired with the boldly patterned roman shade my sister and I made and some other older quilts on the wall, it gives the room an all-color-all-the-time look, but that's me all the way!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Yucca and the Moth: Finished!

I finished my yucca quilt!  Facing, pocket, label and all.  (It's kind of like the lions and tigers and bears, but much more tedious).  You can see more posts on it here and here I really like the way it turned out- it's much more golden in person; so many of the fabrics have sheen and texture and shimmer.  My only regret is how many thread knots/nests are visible on the back.  Enjoy!

Shannon Conley, The Yucca and the Moth, 2014, 52 x 59"

Linking up with Nina-Marie as always, go check out all the fabulous links over there!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cooler Jug for Mike

I'm here today to share a project that wasn't an utter failure but came pretty close.  Mike wanted a lined coozy-cooler-case for his half gallon water jug so he could mount it on the bike for his long road trips.  We decided to make it out of neoprene with a lining of that stuff that car sunscreens are made out of.  

The problems began and ended with the choice of materials.  I started with the lining, and noticed first, that it was too stiff to force under the sewing machine and that the wrinkles from the folding sunscreen made pretty permanent fold lines.  I wound up using a combination of glue and large hand stitches, all put in with a curved upholstery needle.

The neoprene was way worse however.  We couldn't find any locally, so Mike ordered some we found on Amazon.  Unfortunately it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  It was flimsy and wasn't fabric lined on either side.  It's one of the reasons I hate buying specialty fabric online- you never know quite what you're going to get.  It was crazy expensive too!  Anyhow, I couldn't sew with it at all without covering both sides of every seam with tissue paper, which made a huge mess when I ripped it off.  I discovered the serger worked fairly well to sew the seams (it was pretty thin stuff), but the fabric had absolutely no strength!  It tore like paper as soon as you'd sewn it down.  He wanted a little strap on the bottom to loop over the back bike footpeg, and one on the side through which he could insert a bungee cord, and both tore off in an instant the second he tried to put them on the bike.  What horrible horrible material.  Anyway, the cylindrical case itself was ok, but it's terribly ugly. All the seams are wretched and I'm never working with that stuff again.  I'm sort of ashamed to have him go off in public with something like this, but he's leaving Tuesday and it's too late to make something else.  I told him if he didn't care about the "insulating" factor, I'd make him something much nicer out of canvas or something truly sturdy.  I say "insulating" in quotes because I don't actually think the thing will provide a whole lot of extra insulation over what would be achieved just with the cooler jug itself, but who knows.

I almost didn't post this project, but I figured I might as well!  Not everything goes as planned, but it could have been worse!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Yucca Quilt

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd posted until I clicked over today.  I've been quilting away on my yucca quilt.  Progress has been almost glacial in pace, and I think part of why I haven't posted is because I feel like progress was so minuscule as to be unnoticeable.

However, the fact is, I've now finished the quilting, so the project is definitely farther along than when I posted last!  I think the last picture I showed was this one of the top assembled but before I'd added the final flower buds.

Part of why progress on this was so slow is because I've been using 12 wt top stitching thread to outline and echo all of the applique pieces.  Some of them are even outlined twice (once on each side of the satin stitching).  Unfortunately, my machine does not like to free-motion with this thread, so I've been pushing the mass of the quilt around and around and around and around under the throat plate.

In addition,  you can't really backtrack with the top stitching thread (it's really obvious and heavy looking) so that adds to the stops and starts.  Finally, on things like the yucca leaves where you might think you could just start once and go back and forth, you can't really because they're only ditched on one side of the leaf (although the echoing is more continuous).  All of this was my own fault in terms of the design, so I'll definitely know better next time.

After finishing all the top stitching thread, I did some more echoing with Ricky Tims Razzle Dazzle. I love this stuff, it has the heavy feel of the top stitching thread (and is sparkly) but works free motion since I put it in the bobbin.

All the background quilting is really simple, just horizontal or vertical swirls depending on the location.  It's quilted much less densely than most of my pieces, a choice I made because of the background fabric.  In the first place I wanted to preserve the rumpled look of the background fabric as much as possible, and in the second place, because of the texture of the background fabric, I felt like detailed quilting would have been really out of place.

The only place I have "interesting" quilting is in a couple of horizontal bars where I've stitched in a repeating yucca moth design.  I wanted to include the yucca moths somewhere; they live inside the flowers and pollinate them, but more appliques felt out of place.  I thought the repeating pattern was kind of fun, almost like echoes of an Egyptian or Arts and Crafts border.

I'm really pleased to be moving forward on this even if it's been frustrating at times.  I've  blocked and squared up, but unfortunately I forgot to take pictures when it was on the wall, so these were taken while it was laying on my work table.  I've just got to do the facing, label and pocket (oh if it really were "just"), and then I'll show some final pics and move onto a new project!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some Stitch Outs

I don't do a whole lot of machine embroidery, but I really love a lot of the patterns from urban threads. When I saw their Arts/Craft ambigram, I knew I had to snag it.  I've alwasy been intrigued by ambigrams, especially ones that read both ways (upside down and right side up) but don't say the same thing.  On an ambigram aside, does anyone remember the ones in the Dan Brown book Angels and Demons?

Anyway, the other day I was burying about a million threads on my quilt, and thought I might just as well babysit the embroidery machine at the same time, so I stitched this one out.  I made two t-shirts, black with gold and purple for me, and blue with blue and green for my mom.  The stitch outs went well as long as I remembered to keep the rest of the shirt out of the way!

And a gratuitous dog shot, because we all need one of those now and again!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Swap Parcel: Recieved

A little while back I shared the stitchery I made for the Places swap at &Stitches, and today I'm back to share the lovely parcel sent to me by my partner Emily.  In addition to her piece, she sent me a really nice long letter telling me all about the place she depicted as well as other areas where she lives.  It's really wonderful to hear about a new place from someone to whom it's so important.

She currently lives in Brighton, on the southern coast of England and says:  "...but in the end I went with somewhere out of town a bit and more in the countryside: The South Downs, or more specifically the Seven Sisters.  The South Downs are a collection of chalk hills which extend all the way to Brighton (I can see them from my house) but depicted in my embroidery are specifically the chalk cliffs on the coast that make up the Seven Sisters.  In the foreground also depicted are the coastguards' cottages.  I chose this scene in the end not only because of their fame and beauty, but also because I feel a scene depicting nature is more connected to who I am and what I like to draw/embroider."

I looked up some pictures of the Seven Sisters, and it looks like an absolutely gorgeous place to live.  How wonderful to have that as a view.  No wonder Emily wanted to embroider it and share it with me.  I was super impressed with her tiny even stitches and ability to capture the feel of the place.

One final coincidence:  I just finished a quilt based on the seven sisters quilt block, so it's especially fun that she embroidered the real Seven Sisters for me!

Thank you so much Emily, you were a great swap partner!